Cable Video Vote Delayed
By Jerry Wigen
The City Council Monday postponed action on a proposed regulatory ordinance for cable television for a 60-day period to gather additional information and to evaluate testimony presented Monday.
Representatives of local television stations asked the council to delay action on the ordinance for a 90-day period to give the council time to study the new Federal Communications Commission guidelines for cable TV.
Those representing cable TV suggested that a 30-day period was adequate time for the postponement.
Councilman Del E. Jones proposed the 60-day delay as a compromise and suggested that the city legal staff contact representatives of a new Ford Foundation program aimed at providing communities with information about cable TV.
Jones said he felt that action on the ordinance at this time would be “precipitous and unwise” and that the cable TV information center is “lending expertise to cities groping for answers.”
Councilman Jack Divine moved that the existing ordinance be filed and that a new ordinance be prepared to be submitted to the council April 3. The new ordinance would incorporate some of the “at least 25 changes” Divine said he felt should be made in the regulatory ordinance which was up for its third reading Monday.
Councilwoman Margaret Leonard seconded Divine’s motion, but it failed when a vote of the council was taken. The council then approved Jones’ motion for a 60-day delay.
Corporation Counsel Norman dePender said the proposed ordinance is regulatory in nature and does not grant franchises, adding that it lays the groundwork for a franchise ordinance.
DePender, responding to a question from Mrs. Leonard about the effect of the FCC rules, said any cable TV firms that come into Spokane will be bound by those rules. They would have precedence over any rules established by the city, he said.
Attorney Harold W. Coffin, representing KHQ television, said local stations are not opposed to “anything except some of the features of the ordinance.”
He said the network stations do have an interest in cable television because it is their signals that will be carried by cable. They also have an interest as citizens because cable TV will be using local streets to carry the cable.
Coffin suggested it would be unwise to adopt an ordinance without first getting advice available from the Ford Foundation.
The President’s Commission on Television also is making recommendations, and the FCC is offering services to help cities draft cable TV ordinances, he said.
Coffin questioned some sections of the proposed ordinance and suggested the city should be reimbursed by the cable TV firms for time spent in preparing the ordinance.
He further suggested that instead of a $100,000 performance bond suggested in the ordinance, the bond should be set at $250,000. He asked what restraints might be placed on cable TV firms regarding the importing of distant signals, stating that signals from Seattle would contain Seattle advertisements which would hurt local stations and merchants.
This prompted Councilman Jack Winston to say that most Spokane merchants would welcome Seattle advertisements since prices in Spokane are lower than in Seattle.
Attorney Eugene G. Ennis, representing KREM television, said, “One might have gathered from dePender that it doesn’t make too much difference what Spokane has for regulations because of the FCC rules.”
He said this was “misleading” because the FCC has not taken total jurisdiction over cable TV.
Ennis said the work that has been done has not been wasted, but he said Spokane is eligible for assistance in preparing a “good ordinance” to regulate cable TV and should seek this assistance. He also suggested that cable TV lines should be underground as a “beautification measure.”
He said the school district would like to have its 1,461 teaching stations hooked to cable television and that there are 251 similar teaching stations in private schools. KSPS now is providing some cable TV programming to these teaching stations, but only some of the schools are wired to receive cable TV, he said.
School Links Asked
Schaar suggested that any franchise granted cable TV firms should include a stipulation that the firms provide free hookups and service to schools. He said the district would “monumentally profit by all the channels it could get.”
Wayne McNulty, station manager for KXLY television, said the council should delay action on the matter for 90 days, adding, “You may find that anything you do before the FCC regulations take effect in March may be a waste of time.”
Attorney James Connelly, representing Coloxial System of Spokane, one of the cable TV firms seeking to serve the city, said his firm favors the ordinance proposed by the corporation counsel.
He suggested that a study of the new FCC rules was in order, but he said such a study shouldn’t take 90 days, particularly since the proposed ordinance has been under study for two years.
Connelly said the ordinance merely provides the framework for a franchise ordinance.
James S. Keller of American TV and Communication Corp., Denver, Colo., said cable TV should be given an opportunity to show what it can do.
If the telephone system had been studied as much as cable TV, people still would be using tin cans to communicate, he said.
He asked that the regulatory ordinance be passed and the responsible cable TV companies be given a chance to incorporate the FCC rules into their operations and to make their proposals.
Attorney Lyle Keith, representing TV Services, Inc. of Spokane, said the testimony from the station representatives was “an effort to throw bugaboos in front of you which shouldn’t have been thrown.”
Councilman J.M. “Jack” O’Brien said the council had received considerable information from those opposed to the ordinance and asked if the cable TV firms would send factual information to the council members explaining cable TV.
Tuesday, February 8, 1972